Sunday 11 August 2013

At least fifteen dead following landslide in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Fifteen people are known to have died, and it is feared that many more are dead, following a landslide in the Sierra Leonean capitol Freetown. The incident happened at around 10.00 pm local time (which is GMT) on Thursday 8 August 2013, as people were leaving mosques following celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan, when part of Wallace Johnson Street on the city's waterfront  collapsed. This was followed by a second collapse between 2.00 and 3.00 am, which destroyed the historic eighteenth century King Jimmy Bridge, a monument to slavery which now connects Wallace Johnson Street to the Connaught Hospital, which caught rescuers working to free people from the original landslide.

Wallace Johnson Street, Freetown, on the morning of 9 August 2013. Cocorioko.

The incident comes at the height of the West African rainy season, which often causes problems in Sierra Leone. Landslides are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. Approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall. However the situation has been made worse in Sierra Leone since the civil war of the 1990s, since when the country has effectively been bankrupt and unable to invest in maintenance of roads or infrastructure, despite being one of the most mineral rich countries of Africa.

The approximate location of the 9 August 2013 Freetown landslide. Google Maps.

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